It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under the scorching heat, with temperatures zipping past the 40 degree Celsius mark, triggering a crippling water shortage.
From Rajasthan to the Gangetic plains of West Bengal and from Punjab to Tamil Nadu, most regions have been declared facing a ‘heat wave’ by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Rising temperatures have already killed over 100 people.
“Most of the weather stations in this region have temperature recorded over 40 degree Celsius,” the IMD said in an advisory.
The unusually-hot summer comes on the back of two successive droughts that have ravaged farm incomes and pushed thousands of farmers to suicide. The IMD has predicted an ‘above average’ monsoon this year.
But the heat has already sparked fierce wars over water in cities ranging from Ranchi to Nagpur. Authorities are rationing water, banning car-wash services and employing tankers but warn the situation may get out of hand if the mercury soars in May.
The future, too, appears bleak with the IMD predicting an increase in the heat wave intensity. A government report earlier this week said temperatures in central India could shoot up to 44.5 degree Celsius.
Water levels in major reservoirs — the source for 70% of India’s hydro electricity generated — have dipped to 22% of the total storage capacity, the lowest in a decade.
The only beneficiary of the searing sun appears to be the hospitality industry, as bookings have soared in tourist destinations in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
“So far, we have got 10-20% higher bookings than in April last year,” said Sandeep Sahni, president of the Uttarakhand Hotel Association.
In Telangana that has seen the maximum heat-related deaths, the government said summer vacations will begin from April 16 instead of 23. The government also banned labourers from working between 11am and 3pm at construction sites.
The IMD forecast that temperatures will touch 45 degree Celsius in the weekend after Hyderabad and Nizamabad recorded 44 degree Celsius on Friday.
In neighbouring Odisha, where 31 heat-wave deaths were reported, normal life was thrown out of gear with at least 14 urban centres crossing 40 degree Celsius for the past 10 days.
(With agency inputs)